ESP8266: How to get started – What hardware you’ll need

In this post I want to show you what hardware you’ll need in order to get started with the ESP8266. In the post I assume that you have no hardware yet at all. I also assume, that you’re mostly interested in programming the ESP8266 directly, rather than using it as a pure Wifi board for an Arduino.

USB-To-Serial Adapter

In order to talk to the ESP module you need a serial-to-usb adapter. You could also use an Arduino as I describe in this post but my setup caused a lot of problems in the end and I got much happier with a dedicated adapter. With some models you can even switch the logic levels between 5V and 3.3V. The later comes in handy for the ESP8266 which prefers 3.3V

blankFT232RL FT232 USB TO TTL 5V 3.3V Download Cable To Serial Adapter Module For Arduino USB TO 232


In order to connect the different components with each other you’ll need a set of connectors. Sometimes you’ll need male-to-male, sometimes female-to-male and sometimes female-to-female. Especially if you decide to use the ESP-01 without any breadboard adapter you’ll need a bunch of female-to-male connectors: the pins of the ESP-01 go into the female end, the male end goes to the bread board

blankDupont line 120pcs 10cm male to male + male to female and female to female jumper wire Dupont cable for Arduino

Breadboard & power supply

To prototype your circuit quickly a breadboard is the perfect tool. It is helpful to have different sizes ready: the tiny ones with about 15 rows are good as switchboard for jumpers. The bigger ones like the one in the kit suggested below have space for two power rails and can take also

blankMB102 830 Point Breadboard +3.3V 5V Power Supply Module+65PCS Jumper cables

blank1pcs Mini Solderless Prototype Breadboard 170 Tie-points for Arduino Shield New

The ESP8266

While there are many different versions of ESP8266 available you should pick one that has as many pins available as possible. You should make sure that the analog-digital-converter is available and the 10 GPIO pins.So far I only tested this test board and wrote a review here:
blankEsp8266 ESP-12 wifi module esp8266 serial wifi coexistence full AP test board
But there are other good candidates around, which I ordered but didn’t arrive.
The board designed by the NodeMCU makers seems to be very convenient since it comes with a serial-to-usb connector already on the board and because the pins fit into a breadboard but with $15.- it is also a lot pricier than the previous testboard. I’ll let you know once it arrives… The hardware is actually open-source and the gerber files are available on github.
blankProduct – NodeMcu Lua WIFI development board based on ESP8266 Internet of things
The following board is only third of the price of the NodeMCU module and is also breadboard friendly:
blankESP8266 Serial Port WIFI Wireless Transceiver Send Receive Module IO Lead Out

ESP8266 DevKit

You might also do well with one of the available starter kits. The following one comes with a ESP01 module which has only two GPIO pins and no ADC available. But you get all you need in one package.
blankWIFI Test Kit ESP8266 WIFI module + CH340 + Power +Breadboard

What’s next?

In one of the next posts I would like to show you what you can do with the ESP modules once all components have arrived… Stay tuned!

Posted by Daniel Eichhorn

Daniel Eichhorn is a software engineer and an enthusiastic maker. He loves working on projects related to the Internet of Things, electronics, and embedded software. He owns two 3D printers: a Creality Ender 3 V2 and an Elegoo Mars 3. In 2018, he co-founded ThingPulse along with Marcel Stör. Together, they develop IoT hardware and distribute it to various locations around the world.

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